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I sold my car, but the buyer is upset...

post #1 of 135
Thread Starter 
I had a vehicle (that I purchased used 6 months ago) that made some clunking noises while shifting (it has an automatic transmission) and took it to my mechanic. He thought it wasn't a big deal, but thought replacing the tranny fluid would give a clue if something was grinding and if there was metal shavings in the fluid. He reported no problems.

So I continued to drive it, and occasionally it would make a noise when shifting say from first to second or from second back down to first. I don't know what's wrong, but it wasn't a huge deal even though I knew it wasn't 100%. It was very intermittent, but a "clunk" sound fairly accurately describes it.

A woman in her mid-20's was interested. During the test drive I told her, and I quote, "Sometimes it makes a noise when shifting, but my mechanic didn't think it was that serious. He changed the transmission fluid and didn't notice any problems." I also gave her a copy of the tranny fluid change receipt. She drove it for 10 minutes on city streets (never getting above 35 mph), declined my offer that she drive it on the freeway, and didn't take it to a mechanic.

After completing the sale (cash), later that night she texted me saying it was having problems and wanted to know what was wrong. This was followed by increasingly angry texts eventually telling me that she was going to take it to her mechanic and that she expects me to pay half of any repairs.

I'm fairly sure that legally I have no issues, but ethically what is my responsibility? Most people I talk to, including my mechanic, say that she is an adult and could have inspected the car more carefully before buying. The question appears to be how accurately I communicated the potential problem to her during the test drive.

I should note that the sale price was $1500 below blue book value, so I think that should count for something.

Your thoughts on what I should do? Some options include: ignore it, give her a few hundred, pay half...
post #2 of 135
As long as you sold it "as-is," you have no obligation to help her with anything.
post #3 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by borderline View Post
I had a vehicle (that I purchased used 6 months ago) that made some clunking noises while shifting (it has an automatic transmission) and took it to my mechanic. He thought it wasn't a big deal, but thought replacing the tranny fluid would give a clue if something was grinding and if there was metal shavings in the fluid. He reported no problems.

So I continued to drive it, and occasionally it would make a noise when shifting say from first to second or from second back down to first. I don't know what's wrong, but it wasn't a huge deal even though I knew it wasn't 100%. It was very intermittent, but a "clunk" sound fairly accurately describes it.

A woman in her mid-20's was interested. During the test drive I told her, and I quote, "Sometimes it makes a noise when shifting, but my mechanic didn't think it was that serious. He changed the transmission fluid and didn't notice any problems." I also gave her a copy of the tranny fluid change receipt. She drove it for 10 minutes on city streets (never getting above 35 mph), declined my offer that she drive it on the freeway, and didn't take it to a mechanic.

After completing the sale (cash), later that night she texted me saying it was having problems and wanted to know what was wrong. This was followed by increasingly angry texts eventually telling me that she was going to take it to her mechanic and that she expects me to pay half of any repairs.

I'm fairly sure that legally I have no issues, but ethically what is my responsibility? Most people I talk to, including my mechanic, say that she is an adult and could have inspected the car more carefully before buying. The question appears to be how accurately I communicated the potential problem to her during the test drive.

I should note that the sale price was $1500 below blue book value, so I think that should count for something.

Your thoughts on what I should do? Some options include: ignore it, give her a few hundred, pay half...

Used car, sold as is. It was her responsibility to make sure her major purchase was worth it and she did not do it. You also warned her about the transmission.
post #4 of 135
+1 to everything so far. You have no obligations. You sold a used car as-is. It's not like you tried to hide the issue either. Even if you did, that you merely be a moralistic issue on your part and still wouldn't obligate you to anything. Just let it go. If she keeps texting you, block her number.
post #5 of 135
caveat emptor - buyer beware.

She should have known better than to buy a car that "would make a noise when shifting say from first to second or from second back down to first." Maybe that's just my inner mechanic speaking.

At the same time, she seems like a doe eyed girl who feels like she got taken. If it was me, I would have made sure she understood the noise could be a huge problem before purchase and written as-is on the bill of sale just to make sure.

On the other hand, if you empathize for her and do somehow feel bad, you could tell her she bought the care as-is, that you had told her what you knew, and that you had no idea it would happen, but are willing to chip in a hundred or two (definitely not "half") because you realize it sucks to be a happy new owner just to have a car crap out on you.
post #6 of 135
She didn't want to take it to the mechanic, dirve it on the freeway and knew the transmission had a problem. Her fault dont pay a dime.
post #7 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by WorkingOnIt View Post
caveat emptor - buyer beware. She should have known better than to buy a car that "would make a noise when shifting say from first to second or from second back down to first." Maybe that's just my inner mechanic speaking. At the same time, she seems like a doe eyed girl who feels like she got taken. If it was me, I would have made sure she understood the noise could be a huge problem before purchase and written as-is on the bill of sale just to make sure. On the other hand, if you empathize for her and do somehow feel bad, you could tell her she bought the care as-is, that you had told her what you knew, and that you had no idea it would happen, but are willing to chip in a hundred or two (definitely not "half") because you realize it sucks to be a happy new owner just to have a car crap out on you.
Paying might be a tacit admission of guilt(?) Better make sure of that beforehand.
post #8 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by borderline View Post

After completing the sale (cash), later that night she texted me saying it was having problems and wanted to know what was wrong.

Your thoughts on what I should do? Some options include: ignore it, give her a few hundred, pay half...

clunk in the transmission could be a few things. usually because the fluid level is too low or too high, but that's prob not it because your mechanic changed the fluid. Therefore it's prob either a prob with the joints in the driveline or poss loose engine mounts that clunk when there's a change in torque. If it's either of these your talking a lot of $s to fix.

Agree that there probably isn't a legal issue here (although I'm not familiar with your local consumer protection legislation!) but something seems a bit odd. Did the clunking suddenly get worse right after sale? There seems to be a difference between her perception of the problem before and after. Buyer's remorse? or someone else telling her she's made a big mistake?

Maybe one way of looking at it is to ask yourself if you would have been happy to sell the car to a friend or relative for that price and with that level of disclosure. If not, then at least you know why you're uncomfortable with the transaction. Passing off garbage goods is for used car salesmen not for the rest of us IMO. But you seem like a decent guy - maybe you should get some legal advice about whether making a contribution to repairs at this point is an admission of liability.
post #9 of 135
How much was the car and how much are the repairs? If you can afford to, offering to cover a portion of the repairs would be a good gesture.
Obviously, you have no legal obligation to do anything.
post #10 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorCal View Post
How much was the car and how much are the repairs? If you can afford to, offering to cover a portion of the repairs would be a good gesture.
Obviously, you have no legal obligation to do anything.

The car was sold for $11K, and my understanding is that a complete tranny rebuild would be on the order of $2K or possibly slightly less. I don't know if it got worse after I sold it (her description doesn't match my experience). My experience is that it was totally driveable, it happened occasionally, and that I felt like it might be something to be looked at down the road, not an immediate crisis.

That said, I want all of the parties in the transaction to be satisfied, and I don't want to screw over someone who probably doesn't have a lot of money. I am worried that additional funds to her might open me up to some legal liability (might be able to get her to sign something releasing me from liability), but at the same time why should I let her off the hook when she clearly didn't do her due diligence? And is it sexist that should I feel worse that it is a young woman and not some guy?

When disclosing the issue I obviously didn't make a big deal out of it. I was trying to sell the car. But it was mentioned, even if the noise didn't manifest itself during the test drive.

That said, I am still conflicted.
post #11 of 135
Dear XXX, I am very sorry to hear you are experiencing problems with the vehicle you purchased from me. As I am sure you know, there are risks inherent in purchasing any used car in a private sale, and it is the responsibility of the buyer to have the car thoroughly checked out for any mechanical issues. Even then, there are risks inherent in owning any vehicle, and repairs are simply part of the total cost of owning a car. You may recall that in your test drive, I did draw attention to an occasional issue with the transmission, and you declined to take the car on the highway or to take the car to a mechanic. The issues you are experiencing are beyond anything I ever experienced with the vehicle, and there is no way to know if they are even related. In any case, I did sell you the vehicle in good faith, in as-is condition, and at a steep discount to the listed blue book value. You got a good deal. The sale is legally binding and completed. It is clear I have no further legal obligations in this matter. However, as a further gesture of my good faith, I am willing to contribute $300 (or $100, or $500, or whatever you are comfortable with to assuage any guilt you feel) to your repairs. Please let me know your mailing address and I will mail a check to you. I trust that this concludes our business. I wish you all the best with your new vehicle. Sincerely, borderline
post #12 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by CDFS View Post
Paying might be a tacit admission of guilt(?) Better make sure of that beforehand.

+1. if you pay anything at all, it's gonna open you up to her asking for other shit and having "proof" you are at fault. right now you have the "proof" in that she ignored your warnings. anyone buying a used car should spend the 100 bucks or whatever to have a mechanic look at it. if they don't, they deserve what they get. it may not feel like the moral thing to do, but you're asking for a world of headaches if you get any more involved than you already have....
post #13 of 135
+1. if you pay anything at all, it's gonna open you up to her asking for other shit (what if they get in there and start finding other problems?) and having "proof" you are at fault. right now you have the "proof" in that she ignored your warnings. anyone buying a used car should spend the 100 bucks or whatever to have a mechanic look at it. if they don't, they deserve what they get. it may not feel like the moral thing to do, but you're asking for a world of headaches if you get any more involved than you already have...
post #14 of 135
YOU took it to a mechanic, who changed the fluid, and then told you he didn't think it was a big deal. Is HE responsible for being wrong? Should he chip in for his bad expert advice? NO! If she had taken it to a mechanic to have it checked out and that mechanic had given the car a clean bill of health and then this problem occurred, would that mechanic chip in for having advised her so poorly? NO!

This is why dealers get more money for used cars. They have their mechanics give the car a once over and then, usually, offer an extended warranty, for extra cash. When I see a used car on a lot where the dealer will not offer an extended warranty, I walk away. He knows of a serious problem and is hiding it.

You are not a car dealership and did not get the higher price that comes with being a dealership. You did not offer her an extended warranty. The deal is done and, frankly, her continued harassment could become a serious problem if you allow it to continue.

My brother bought a car from one of his his female roommates. My dad told him he was overpaying, that the car was junk. Did he listen? NO! Now he is stuck with a piece of junk. Has his former roommate chipped in to help him with all of the repairs? NO! Oh, and my brother DID take it to a mechanic, the roommates mechanic, who said the car was fine. My stupid a** brother then took the car for repairs back to the same guy who told him the car was fine in the first place! Some people are just stupid!

To me, this is very much like the current situation on Ebay. Buyers want the amazing deal one gets with buying unseen, but with the new feedback rules does not have any responsibility if an item doesn't quite fit right or the color is a bit different than the photos. "Item Not As Described" claim will always, with few exceptions, get you your money back.

I have listened as my dad has argued with those people at Ebay. I have heard all of the "it is good customer service" lines they spew. I have heard the comparisons to Neiman Marcus and the like, who give returns no matter what. I have heard my dad say: "I am not Neiman Marcus and I do not get Neiman Marcus prices! If I did I would take an item back, no questions asked." People who want Neiman Marcus service should PAY Neiman Marcus prices, period!

Is anyone responsible for their own actions anymore? I am sorry, but you owe this girl absolutely nothing. In fact, by doing nothing you may help her more than anyone else in her life has ever helped her. Maybe she will finally learn that SHE is responsible for herself and her actions!

I bought my first car while in the Marine Corps. I bought it from a Naval Officer. Even though their was this mutual respect thing between us, even though the car came with a transferable warranty, I still did my due dilligence. It is a Honda Hybrid and while I wanted the great gas mielage assocaited with hybrids, I don't know a lot about cars. I paid the guy $18,000 cash, which was less than blue book back then, too. When I was deployed to Iraq I left the car with my parents. They drove it for a year, took care of it, and I got it back good as new. The car is amazing and has served me well. It was some of the best money I ever spent.

Okay, now I can go take my last final. I was really sick during finals and had to take an incomplete, which my professor was really nice about. All I have to do is pass this thing and I get an "A" and can move on to bigger and better things. If I mess up, maybe I will try and blame the professor, my counselor, my dad, my brother, or some other convenient fall guy because it certainly won't be my fault!
post #15 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pliny View Post
Agree that there probably isn't a legal issue here (although I'm not familiar with your local consumer protection legislation!) but something seems a bit odd. Did the clunking suddenly get worse right after sale? There seems to be a difference between her perception of the problem before and after. Buyer's remorse? or someone else telling her she's made a big mistake?

Maybe one way of looking at it is to ask yourself if you would have been happy to sell the car to a friend or relative for that price and with that level of disclosure. If not, then at least you know why you're uncomfortable with the transaction. Passing off garbage goods is for used car salesmen not for the rest of us IMO. But you seem like a decent guy - maybe you should get some legal advice about whether making a contribution to repairs at this point is an admission of liability.

The problem was intermittent, so it didn't manifest itself during the short test drive. It obviously did after, but her description of the problem seems greater than what I perceived.

I think the "selling to a friend or relative" criterion is overly strict. I think it is reasonable to have different standards selling to a stranger.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas View Post
Dear XXX,

I am very sorry to hear you are experiencing problems with the vehicle you purchased from me. As I am sure you know, there are risks inherent in purchasing any used car in a private sale, and it is the responsibility of the buyer to have the car thoroughly checked out for any mechanical issues. Even then, there are risks inherent in owning any vehicle, and repairs are simply part of the total cost of owning a car.

You may recall that in your test drive, I did draw attention to an occasional issue with the transmission, and you declined to take the car on the highway or to take the car to a mechanic. The issues you are experiencing are beyond anything I ever experienced with the vehicle, and there is no way to know if they are even related. In any case, I did sell you the vehicle in good faith, in as-is condition, and at a steep discount to the listed blue book value. You got a good deal.

The sale is legally binding and completed. It is clear I have no further legal obligations in this matter. However, as a further gesture of my good faith, I am willing to contribute $300 (or $100, or $500, or whatever you are comfortable with to assuage any guilt you feel) to your repairs. Please let me know your mailing address and I will mail a check to you.

I trust that this concludes our business. I wish you all the best with your new vehicle.

Sincerely,

borderline

I am leaning towards something like this (thanks!) with a number in the 1-3 hundred range.
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